In 1930, on the night of of August 6, Judge Craer shook hands with a dinner companion and said good-bye. Then he stepped into a cab on westbound 45th street in New York City and road straight into oblivion.
In his legal career he aimed as high as he could see. He made no secret of his ambition someday to gain a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. There were many who thought he would make it. Compiling a superior record at Columbia Law, he had gone on to teach at Fordham and later was appointed assistant professor at New York University. Wherever he lectured, he was recognized as one of the most entertaining and most instructive men that ever graced a podium. He reached the level of Associate Justice of the New York Supreme Court and had been appointed to the state bench by then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt just four months before disappearing. He was a man on his way to the top. Then, on the evening of August 2, while vacationing with his wife at their summer cottage in Maine, he got a mysterious phone call. Who called the judge or what was discussed has never been learned, but it was enough to send him packing. “I’ve got to straighten those fellows out,” he told Stella his wife. The next morning he boarded the Bar Harbor Express for New York. She never saw him again.
The following day, he arrived at his Fifth Avenue apartment but instead of dealing with business, he made a trip to Atlantic City in the company of a showgirl instead. On August 3, he was back in New York and on the morning of August 6, he spent two hours going through his files in his courthouse chambers. He then had his assistant, Joseph Mara, cash two checks for him that amounted to $5,150. At noon, he and Mara carried two locked briefcases to his apartment and he let Mara take the rest of the day off.
Later that evening, Crater went to a Broadway ticket agency and purchased one seat for a comedy that was playing that night called Dancing Partners at the Belasco Theater. He then went to Billy Haas’ chophouse on West 45th Street for dinner. Here, he ran into two friends, a fellow attorney and his showgirl date, and he joined them for dinner. The lawyer later told investigators that Crater was in a good mood that evening and gave no indication that anything was bothering him. The dinner ended a little after 9:00 (a short time after the curtain had opened for the show that Crater had a ticket for) and the small group went outside. At that point shook hands with his friend hailed a taxi and waved good-bye. It was the last anyone ever saw of him. The story captivated the nation and a massive investigation was launched. Had Crater been killed, or had he simply disappeared on his own? That was the question that everyone wanted the answer to.
The case triggered one of the most sensational manhunts of the 20th century ” one that had city detectives fielding more than 16,000 tips from around the country and the world, all of them unsubstantiated.
Although he was declared legally dead in 1939, and his case ” Missing Persons File No. 13595 ” was officially closed in 1979, Crater’s vanishing act has continued to intrigue professional and armchair detectives, clairvoyants and mystery buffs around the globe.
The New York City Police Department’s longest-running unsolved missing-persons case ” the bizarre and legendary disappearance of Judge Joseph Force Crater ” may finally be solved.
Sources told a NY newspaper that the NYPD Cold Case Squad is investigating information provided by a woman named Stella Ferrucci-Good of Queens, NY who died on April 2, leaving behind what may be a major clue the mystery.
It’s a handwritten letter in an envelope marked “Do not open until my death” that her granddaughter Barbara O’Brien found in a metal box in her grandmother’s home. In the letter, Ferrucci-Good claimed that her late husband, Robert Good along with another man a NYPD police officer named Charles Burns and the officer’s cab driver brother, Frank Burns, were responsible for Crater’s death. She added that the judge was buried in Coney Island, Brooklyn, under the boardwalk near West Eighth Street, at the current site of the New York Aquarium.
It has been established that workers did indeed unearth human remains back when the aquarium was first being built. It is unclear where these remains are today and whether they would be suitable for DNA testing.
NY Police sources confirmed that a police officer named Charles Burns served with the NYPD from 1926 to 1946, and that he spent part of his career assigned to the 60th Precinct in Coney Island. There were dozens of theories about the disappearance of Judge Crater. He had amnesia; he committed suicide; he ran off with a showgirl; he was rubbed out so he couldn’t testify about Tammany Hall corruption; he died in the arms of a prostitute and it was being covered up; he was killed when he didn’t pay a blackmailer.
Maybe this time the truth really is out there under the boardwalk in Coney Island.